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No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms (Spurious Quotation)

This sentence comes from Thomas Jefferson's three drafts of the Virginia Constitution. The text varies slightly from the first draft to the subsequent drafts:

First Draft: "No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms."1

Second Draft: "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands or tenements]."2

Third Draft: "No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms [within his own lands or tenements]"3

This sentence does not appear in the Virginia Constitution as adopted.

Note: This sentence is often seen paired with the following: "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." That sentence does not appear in the Virginia Constitution drafts or text as adopted, nor in any other known Jefferson writings.

  • 1. The Virginia Constitution of 1776, First Draft by Jefferson, [before June 13, 1776], in PTJ, 1:344. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 2. The Virginia Constitution of 1776, Second Draft by Jefferson, [before June 13, 1776], in PTJ, 1:353. Brackets appear in the original manuscript. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 3. The Virginia Constitution of 1776, Third Draft by Jefferson, [before June 13, 1776], in PTJ, 1:363. Brackets appear in the original manuscript. Transcription available at Founders Online.

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